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One of the reasons that I love our real food lifestyle is because the comforting meals I grew up enjoying, like macaroni and cheese, are completely acceptable. While diets are intended to restrict food options, which oftentimes leaves you craving the “forbidden fruit” (or bacon), real food is about embracing meals that are made with “better” ingredients. Real food isn’t about being “better.” I almost think that word gives “outsiders” the idea that we’re looking for an elite food system. Rather, real food is about getting back to the food great-great grandma knew and enjoyed. Essentially, real food is about getting back to the basics, while keeping the modern conveniences like the washing machine and dishwasher ;).
Here’s how food advocate Micheal Pollan sums up real food, “Real food doesn’t have a long ingredient list, isn’t advertised on TV, and it doesn’t contain stuff like maltodextrin or sodium tripolyphosphate. Real food is things that your great-grandmother (or someone’s great-
Isn’t that a freeing thought?
Since nothing is essentially “off limits” when it comes to real food (except ingredients great-great grandma wouldn’t recognize), my best advice for a family transitioning from processed food to real food (like we did nearly eight years ago) is to start making processed food alternatives at home. This simply means recreating the very meals your family loves with “better” ingredients (AKA: ingredients great-great grandma would recognize).
Does your weekly meal plan include visiting a hamburger joint or fast food drive-thru? Yes? Awesome, let’s make the real food transition!
The easiest way to transition your family away from the drive-thru is to start recreating real food burgers, french fries, and even chicken nuggets (I’m currently working on an easy recipe to share on Live Simply) at home in your kitchen. Yes, this may require a bit of extra time for preparing a meal, but the time spent learning to make these foods at home will be worth the investment.
Why do I recommend going the homemade alternative route in the beginning? Because that, my friend, is the easiest way to win a Standard American Diet family over to the real food side. Once a family understands and tastes a juicy homemade burger and fries, homemade nuggets, or homemade macaroni and cheese, it’s much easier to rally the troops. And trust me, rallying the troops is essential for making real food a long-term lifestyle. No divided households here.
Today’s recipe is one that I hope you’ll be able to use in your rallying-the-troops mission. Or, if your troops are already on board with real food, I hope this recipe will be an easy comfort meal to add to your regular meal plan, along with a vegetable or easy weeknight salad.
This macaroni and cheese doesn’t require any special ingredients, unlike my Roasted Butternut Mac and Cheese or Mac and Cheese with Swiss Chard and Mushrooms, because it’s intended to be a very simple, quick-fix meal, although you could toss some broccoli or peas in with the pasta while it cooks. You know, the kind of quick-fix meal that a certain company that starts with the letter K likes to sell us based on the convenience factor. No more, my friend, no more.
Homemade Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese
- 1-12 oz elbow macaroni noodles * I like Eden brand.
- 4 TB butter I use Kerrygold salted butter.
- 4 TB all-purpose einkorn flour Whole wheat rice, spelt, and whole white wheat flours will also work.
- 1 1/2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese or any variety of cheese you prefer: Monterey Jack, Gouda, Sharp Cheddar, etc.
- 1/2 tsp salt or more depending on taste
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- fresh herbs as a garnish, like parsley, optional
In a large pot (I use a 3-quart Dutch Oven), cook the noodles according to the package. Once cooked, drain the water from the noodles, and rinse the noodles under cold water to keep them from clumping together.
Return the empty pot to the stove-top. Over medium heat, melt the butter. Once melted, add the flour one tablespoon at a time to the butter, whisking the flour into the butter each time a new tablespoon of flour is added. Once combined, the butter and flour should appear creamy and bubbly. Whisk the milk into the butter/flour. Let the mixture rest, over the medium heat for about 5-7 minutes, whisking every few minutes, until the mixture is thick. Whisk in the cheese, salt, and pepper. The cheese sauce should be thick and creamy.
Add the cooked noodles to the cheese sauce. Gently stir the macaroni and cheese until the cheese and noodles are well combined.
Serve immediately, or freeze for later.
*Noodles: The package size you choose for this recipe will depend on how creamy you’d like your macaroni and cheese. I like to use a 12-ounce bag of noodles, but an 8-ounce or 16-ounce bag will also work. You can also cook a 16-ounce bag of noodles (a standard size), and then add as many noodles as desired to the cheese sauce.
The flavor of your macaroni and cheese will greatly depend on the cheese you choose to use in this recipe. I love a blend of cheddar cheese and gouda. Mixing cheese varieties will also change the flavor of the final dish, so experiment based on your family’s preferences.
Freezer Suggestion: This recipe freezes very well. Make the recipe according to the instructions above, then place the macaroni and cheese in freezer-safe containers, and freeze for a later date. Defrost the macaroni and cheese overnight in the fridge before reheating.
If you make this recipe, be sure to snap a photo and hashtag it #LIVESIMPLYBLOG. I'd love to see what you make!